a short course in new games

by Bernie DeKoven on May 31, 2012

I was invited to conduct a two-hour session game session to the counselors at the Indianapolis JCC. It was my goal to introduce them to what remains an alternative way to play – one that was most notably presented in the 70s by what was then the New Games Foundation.  I was motivated to no small degree by knowing that these people would be the very ones who would be determining the play experiences for the summer camp. And that my grandchildren would be part of that experience. FY collective I, here’s the so-called plan for the program I’ll be offering. I call it “so-called” because I can never really plan a game session until I am in the presence of the players:

We’ll probably begin with a short game to divide people into groups, like Psychic Handshake .

Once they’re in groups, I thought I’d teach one game to each group, while the other players observe. Each game will be of a different energy level. Games like:

Then I thought I’d ask each team to select a few of their members to lead their game with people from other teams. The people acting as leaders will be encouraged to adapt the games – change the rules, create variations; and the players encouraged to move from game to game as they see fit until they find the one that’s the most fun for them. Then we’ll talk a little about the different games, about the fun of each, and about what the leaders did to make it more fun.

I’ll probably show a short video describing a New Games event to add some perspective on how the games, and a games event based on these games, can be used to create a fun community. Then, of course, I’ll show them my “Playful Games” page  – that they can use for an ongoing resource.

I think the second part of the session should be devoted to “big games” – for a couple of reasons: it will be good for the group morale for them to all be playing together, it will demonstrate how they can play this kind of “pointless game” to involve many or few players, as the need arises.

I thought we’d play two or three games (depending on how much time) that everybody could play. Games like  human spirals and/or human tunnels (I’ll probably show them videos of each game and ask them to lead the games themselves based on what they saw). We’ll debrief each game, focusing on player experience and leadership. If there’s more time, and people seem up for it, I’ll play one or two more games that can involve the whole group of 75, or as few as 15. Here’s a few possibles:


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